Monday, February 15, 2016

Prepared for You from the Foundation of the World

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. Though you may have to reprove him, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”  Leviticus 19:17-18

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’” Matthew 25:34-36

Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favorable a time for conversion! We ask this through the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who, encountering the greatness of God's mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness (cf. Lk1:48) and to call herself the Lord's humble servant (cf. Lk 1:38). (Pope Francis)

What are you going to do about it? 

With today’s reading from the famous Matthew 25, once again, I can hear the story echo in homilies and reflections.  You, too, have heard it before. Maybe even a priest of deacon preached it yesterday. The angry Christian looks at the world and says to God, “How do you allow (fill in the suffering) to happen?”  God responds…”That’s why I created you.”  Or “How do you?”

Nestled in this first full week of Lent, we can look at almsgiving as one of the three things we are asked to do in this season of preparation:  fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. 

The foundational call of Christians to charity is a frequent theme of the Gospels.  During Lent, we are asked to focus more intently on "almsgiving," which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity.  As one of the three pillars of Lenten practice, almsgiving is "a witness to fraternal charity" and "a work of justice pleasing to God." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2462).[i]  

Mike Aquilina, writing for the Catholic Education Resource Center website says: Of the three marks of Lent — prayer, fasting and almsgiving — almsgiving is surely the most neglected.  And yet, in the only place where the Bible brings all three together, the inspired author puts the emphasis firmly on the last: Prayer with fasting is good. Almsgiving with righteousness is better than wealth with wickedness. It is better to give alms than to store up gold, for almsgiving saves from death, and purges all sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life, but those who commit sin and do evil are their own worst enemies. (Tobit 12:8-10).[ii]

We are living high, but are we giving high?  Matthew 25 prompts us to ponder, “What are you going to do about it?”  Will be with the sheep or will we be with the goats? 

We need to give to God — whom we meet in our neighbor — until these problems go away.  Our giving is symbolic of the greater giving that defines the Christian life. As God gave himself entirely to us, so we give ourselves entirely to Him. In the Eucharist, He holds nothing back. He gives us His body, blood, soul and divinity — everything He has. That's the giving we need to imitate.[iii]

Have you adopted a cause for Lent to focus your almsgiving?  Maybe it can be the CRS Rice Bowl Collection.  Maybe it can be the Knights of Columbus 40 Cans for 40 Days initiative.  Whatever, there is still time to get your giving plan for Lent together. 

Lent will prepare us for what comes next but we have to be an active participant in that preparation.

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